I caught the Vegas auditions last week for So You Think You Can Dance (and the results the next day). The judges can be so brutally honest sometimes. They possess a level of blunt truthfulness. Sometimes I wish I could be like that. As a guild master and a player, interaction and feedback is a daily occurrence.
Watching this weeks performance show (Bollywood was amazing, cha cha was really good and samba was just wow) and witnessing the judge comments reminded me that negative feedback does not always have to be harsh. It’s how you respond to it that matters.
Making the cut
This isn’t a post about getting through and making the guild (or raid). This is about the leadership perspective. We’re like judges. We evaluate and assess new recruits based on what we see. Sometimes we have to cut people. What sucks for us is that in a game that is dynamic and long lasting as this is the fact that evaluation is a constant.
When a guild recruits a player even as a trial, we do so hoping that the player meets or surpasses our expectations. When the challenges that a raid instance offers goes up (such as the gap from Naxxramas to Ulduar), there is an expectation that the player evolves and grows up in the same direction. Some players are able to do it admirably. Others just can’t. For whatever reason, they are not able to fulfill the level of technical skill that the encounter demands.
I especially want to direct this to struggling players who have been talked to by their leadership or fellow guildmates.
- We’re not calling you dicks.
- We’re not calling you morons.
- We’re not calling you dipshits.
- We’re not calling you assholes.
- We’re not calling you humanity’s failures.
But we do recognize that you’re struggling. It would be disrespectful if that was simply swept under the rug and ignored. When you’re cut, it’s for a reason.
Why is it so difficult?
Cutting people from raids isn’t a feeling I take satisfaction from. It’s one of the worse things about this GM role. There’s something heartbreaking about telling a prepared raider that they’re not going to get the call up today. And at this point, I expect the whole this is just a game, stop taking it so seriously argument to crop up. Yeah, I understand it’s a game. But you’re still dealing with real people on the other end of it. It’s amazing how many people can lose sight of that. They’re not simple chess pieces on a board to be sacrificed on a whim.
It gets way harder when a person continues to be benched.
Is it the fact that the guild’s invested time and energy into getting them some gear to help out? No.
Is it because no one likes telling people they don’t get to go today? No.
Then what is it?
I’ve acted as a recruiter in no less than four different guilds. We watch new recruits and prospects. We try and carefully screen them as best we can.
What sucks for me personally is knowing that I spotted talent and potential in a player only to realize days or weeks later when they’re in our raids that I was completely wrong about them and their ability. No one likes to be wrong.
All the upper management types are scoffing. Understandable. They’re seasoned at the whole letting go thing. I’d probably be terrible as a manager or as HR. Heh, I’m still in my early 20s and you know that rule where everyone under 25 doesn’t know what they’re doing. I sure as heck don’t.
There is a limit
I hate to say it, but there’s a ceiling to the amount of effort that will be invested to help a player. Gear can only do so much.
Usually when a player is told that they need improvement and a strategy is devised to help them in that path, one of two things will happen.
Improvement: Player reads strategies, watches videos, talks with other players of that same class. Undergoes a noticeable level of change. Actually gets better and is able to respond to the challenges of raiding.
No improvement: Player reads strategies, watches videos, talks with other players. Does not improve at all. Level of skill stays stagnant. No signs of growth. Nothing happens. Doesn’t seem to care.
If a player improves, great! GM’s job or class officer or whoever’s it is is now complete! Mission accomplished! Congratulations! You helped Joe Mage get better!
But what about the alternative? What if they don’t?
You see, no amount of video watching, strat reading, image diagramming, peer discussion, or gearing up can make a player better. A player has to not only learn from what they’re absorbing but they have to act on it. I can watch any number of healing videos or read all the stuff on EJ’s. But if I don’t noticeably improve somehow, then there is no amount of anything in the world that can help. You have to find the way to battle through and prove that you can raid. If you can’t meet that threshold even with all the resources at your disposal, then there is nothing more that can be done. The onus is always going to be on the player to get better.
Not everyone can. Not every player is fit to raid. Hard mode is hard. Not every guild can successfully do it. I can’t arena for crap.
The next step after that is entirely up to you and your guild. Either they find a new role for you or you start shopping for a new guild or accept being permanently benched. I’ve had to reassign players before. They weren’t meeting the expectations that were set for them. Sometimes a change of scenery or position works wonders and they just so happen to fit in.
Negative feedback is hard to give. But it’s even harder to receive.